Well, it’s time for album number 2 from METAL ALLEGIANCE the band featuring Alex Skolnick, Mark Menghi, Mike Portnoy & David Ellefson. We sat down with Dave to ask him the ins and out about this new release.
It began as a celebration of heavy metal, powered by the almost tribal bond shared between the extreme music community’s most revered trailblazers, armed with a list of contributors onstage (and off) that read like a Wikipedia entry on the genre itself. Now, with their second album, METAL ALLEGIANCE achieves the seemingly impossible once again. Beyond any doubt, the all-star “project” has cemented its position as a true band.
An adrenaline-soaked, thrash-worshipping, groove-driven, diverse, yet more sharply focused effort than its no-less-impressive predecessor, the mere existence and urgent brilliance of Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty silences any doubt as to the band’s earnest intention, purposeful resolve, and resilient dedication to all things heavy metal.
That singular tenacity, once the time is carved out, extends itself to the traditional vibe of the band’s writing methodology, as well. “We don’t just phone it in,” bassist and co-founder David Ellefson explains. “These are real songs, written by real humans, in the same room. As complicated as it often makes our lives to do that, it’s a real band.”
“We wrote these songs, in my basement, playing them in rehearsals before we ever hit record,” adds drummer and co-founder Mike Portnoy. “It’s important to stress that this isn’t one of those email projects where everybody just sends files back and forth. Like a garage band, each of these songs began with playing together, banging it out, old school.” He likens the energy to METALLICA’s Kill ‘Em All and EXODUS’ Bonded By Blood.
Emerging from prolific writing/jamming sessions with two different configurations of the group’s four co-founders, with nine guest vocalists across ten tracks, Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty boasts new METAL ALLEGIANCE anthems like ‘Bound By Silence,’ ‘Liars & Thieves,’ ‘Mother Of Sin,’ and ‘The Accuser,’ alongside the esoteric mood of ‘Voodoo Of The Godsend’ and expansive album closer ‘Power Drunk Majesty (Part II).’
Lyrical missives abound, many of them reflecting the frustrating state of the world, through an aggressive perspective that transcends partisanship in favor of unbridled rage. Bassist/co-founder Mark Menghi, in particular, had a lot to get off of his chest. “It’s not a political record with a liberal or conservative agenda,” he says. “It’s about what American society is becoming today and how much it sucks to be a pawn in the system.” There’s an equal amount of emotional exorcisms conducted on the album as well, as Menghi, in particular, went through a period of upheaval and turmoil in his private life.
Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty presents a cohesive vision, a straight-ahead almost throwback thrash attack that’s still grooving and modern. “With both albums, we got together to see what would happen and in both situations, we surprised ourselves,” says guitarist/co-founder Alex Skolnick. “On the first album, we were like kids in a candy store. It’s a diverse record, which is great. On this one, we went for a more unified sound, and with fewer guests.”
Getting the core of METAL ALLEGIANCE together once is nothing short of a minor miracle, considering the complex crisscross of schedules and outside obligations. That Ellefson, Menghi, Portnoy, and Skolnick have written and performed together multiple times and produced not one but two studio albums are nothing short of astounding. It’s evidence of their total commitment to the spirit that METAL ALLEGIANCE embodies, to the force of their unique creative chemistry, and to the fans.
The year after they first performed as METAL ALLEGIANCE on MOTÖRHEAD’s Motörboat Cruise in 2014, the group issued a surprise debut album of original material, packed with the caliber of guests that crowds at their live shows would rightfully expect. Considering songs like ‘Pledge Of Allegiance,’ ‘Let Darkness Fall,’ and ‘Can’t Kill The Devil’ rose to the level of excellence of the myriad iconic acts associated with them, it was inevitable that lightning would strike twice with the arrival of the sophomore set from the band.
The first METAL ALLEGIANCE album featured contributions from past and present members of LAMB OF GOD, SLAYER, EXODUS, PANTERA, MACHINE HEAD, LACUNA COIL, JUDAS PRIEST, ARCH ENEMY, and ANTHRAX to name but a few. On »Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty«, the core membership is once again strengthened by a small army of friends, an eclectic mix of metal legends, visionaries, and firebrands.
Vocalists include Trevor Strnad (THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER), John Bush (ARMORED SAINT), Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (OVERKILL), Mark Tornillo (ACCEPT), Johan Hegg (AMON AMARTH), Max Cavalera (SOULFLY), and Floor Jansen (NIGHTWISH). »Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty« also marks the return of unofficial “fifth Beatle” Mark Osegueda (DEATH ANGEL) and Troy Sanders (MASTODON).
Bush debuted ‘Bound By Silence,’ one of the songs written over an initial jamming period of four days (with lyrics inspired by a late night conversation Menghi had in a bar with a terminally ill Vietnam veteran) with METAL ALLEGIANCE at the House of Blues in Anaheim in January, 2018. “John Bush is one of my favorite all time heavy metal singers of my generation,” says Ellefson.
‘The Accuser,’ which opens the album, was another song that came together quickly, featuring lyrics co-written by both of the band’s bass players. “Trevor Strnad is somebody from a newer generation of metal and doing it really well; he killed that track,” enthuses Skolnick, who is responsible for much of the vocal phrasing on the LP.
Skolnick was similarly impressed with the Dutch singer who handles the album’s closer. “Floor from NIGHTWISH, what a musician! She came up with this whole new melody. The way it interacts with the music, it’s almost like an instrumental. It’s beautiful.”
Menghi relished the opportunity to collaborate lyrically with Blitz (‘Mother Of Sin’) and Tornillo (‘Terminal Illusion’), particularly given the deeply personal nature of the subject matter, which he shared with the singers in the process. The two bass players of METAL ALLEGIANCE did a strong amount of lyrical collaboration, as well. “Dave is the king of the one-liners,” says Menghi.
Skolnick’s virtuoso, tasteful and melodic lead guitar work is joined by guest soloists who represent a wide spectrum of generations and styles: Andreas Kisser (SEPULTURA), who regularly appears with METAL ALLEGIANCE live; Nita Strauss (ALICE COOPER), and the one-time guitar teacher for a pre-TESTAMENT teenaged Alex Skolnick, Joe Satriani.
Menghi, who worked as an executive in the musical equipment industry, was thrilled when Satriani quickly accepted the band’s invitation. “It’s completely humbling to have people I looked up to growing up now saying ‘yes’ to my phone call or text. It’s crazy.”
“Working with Mike, Dave, and Alex is always awesome,” he adds. “I put the most pressure on myself. I have the most to prove. I have to be on my A-game at all times. I have to exceed all expectations. At the end of the day, I get to do what I want to hear as a metal fan and I’ve gotten to write and record with about 40+ musicians, people like Phillip Anselmo, Randy Blythe, Bobby Blitz. It’s incredible.”
Now two albums deep, METAL ALLEGIANCE stands triumphantly as more than a project.
“As much as METAL ALLEGIANCE started as kind of an all-star party atmosphere, once we did the first record, it showed we clearly had some artistic merit,” Ellefson observes. “We wanted to do a second one, so when we go out and we perform, whenever and wherever that may be, we have even more material that the fans of our individual bands can sink their teeth into and really get behind as an artistic endeavor.”
Portnoy agrees. “METAL ALLEGIANCE is a labor of love and gives me an outlet that I don’t have in any of my other bands or projects. Dave, Alex, Mark, and all of the regulars who tour with us, like Gary Holt, Mark Osegueda, Andreas, I love all of these guys. They’re just cool to hang out with, they’re fun to jam with. This is so much a part of what I love to do that I personally always try to make time for it whenever I’m asked.”
Likewise, Ellefson summarizes the METAL ALLEGIANCE spirit with a simple mantra:
“It’s good friends making great music together.”